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Wheat yields are below average; could be worse

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

(Photo)
An area farmer cuts wheat on Highway U, west of Blodgett.
SIKESTON -- The wheat harvest is coming in lower than average but not so bad considering the circumstances.

Area farmers began harvesting wheat about 10 days ago, according to David Reinbott, agriculture business specialist for University of Missouri Extension in Scott County.

"Last week they really got going, and this week," Reinbott said. "We're well over half done -- some guys are probably finished."

"It's actually going pretty decent," said Jeff House, agronomy specialist for the University of Missouri Extension in New Madrid County. "We're lucky we're cutting anything at all with that freeze that hit. That really hurt us."

Reinbott and House both reported yields well below average due to the the four-day period around Easter when temperatures dropped into the 20s. "That really had an impact and dropped the yield," Reinbott said.

Farmers in Scott County are reporting yields less than 20 bushels per acre, according to Reinbott, although a few have been well over 70 bushels per acre. "Most of it's in the 30-40 bushel range," he said.

Reinbott said the average yield for wheat harvests this time of the year is probably in the upper 50s.

House said harvests are off around 20-30 bushels per acre in New Madrid County.

He said he has verified yields as low as 18 bushels per acre and as high as 60 with "a lot of 40s to 50s" in places where the farmer "would normally cut 90 to 100 bushels of wheat in a normal year."

While House said he doesn't have data available on how many acres of wheat were planted for this crop, he said only half of what was intended got planted.

"I'm just glad we're getting to cut as much as we are. At least the price is up to help us offset some of it," he said. "I hope I never see a freeze like that at that time of year ever again."

On the other hand, House said he remembers a time when 40-45 bushels per acre was a good harvest.

With better varieties of wheat, better fungicides and other farming advances, wheat farmers can now consistently achieve higher yields, House said -- as long as the weather cooperates.